San Francisco has been identified as one of the most vulnerable cities in the nation when it comes to water-related impacts of climate change. In a report entitled “Thirsty for Answers,” published by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the organization reviewed more than 75 scientific studies and other reports to come up with a dozen cities that urgently need to prepare for challenges related to water resources.
As a city by the ocean, San Francisco faces a “highly likely” danger of sea level rise, erosion, saltwater intrusion, flooding, and water supply problems, according to the report. Much of the Bay Area will be inundated with a 12 to 18 inch rise sea water, which could come as early as our lifetimes. The cost: $5.4 billion (in 2000 dollars) in needed infrastructure to protect against flooding if seas reach 55 inches higher.
Compounding the problem of flooding is erosion. A total 11 square miles of soil could be lost from these shores.
With higher seas come more saltwater into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which supplies some of the East Bay’s freshwater. San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water supply is also uncertain because of an earlier Sierra snowpack melt.
The good news, according to the report, is that the San Francisco Bay Area is starting to take action. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is developing local water supplies and supporting the reuse of greywater, stormwater, and rainwater. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission is drafting state legislation that would give the agency the power to develop an adaptation plan for sea level rise.